Most car dealer reviews are from people who buy cars from dealers.
This one’s a bit different. It’s a dealer review from someone who sells cars to dealers.
Or at least used to.
I was a part of the process that determined who got which cars to put on their lots to sell to customers.
It was the late 80’s and early 90’s, and I was the pre-owned manager of a large dealership in Rhode Island that sold one of the most popular automotive brands. It was my job to appraise vehicles for trade in, and once they came in trade, of the ones we weren’t going to keep, to decide which dealers they went to.
Our dealership generally only kept the trade-ins that were our own brand. That’s a pretty common practice…each dealer knows their own brand best, and has a much easier time selling, (and more importantly servicing), the brand they sell new.
Our main source of vehicles was from customers who traded their older model for a new one of the same brand. But when there weren’t enough of these, we’d go to the auctions to augment our retail pre-owned inventory.
When someone traded in a vehicle that wasn’t our own brand, we’d usually sell it to buyer for an area used car dealer. These guys (and they were always guys) are called “wholesalers”. They’d stop in every few days to see what we had traded, and see if they could buy some individually or in a “package”.
It’s a practice that’s gone on for over fifty years, since the start of the auto auction houses on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and still goes on at most dealerships today.
Being that we traded close to a hundred cars per month, there were plenty of wholesalers who frequented our dealership each day. They wanted our trade-ins, to buy them at wholesale so they could take them back and sell them at their stores for retail. Most worked for used car stores, employed to go on the road to buy as many cars as their dealer could afford. They were a good group, whose entire living was made buying vehicles of varying quality, and taking them back to the store they were working for, who would clean them up and sell them for a few bucks more.
For most of them, the worse the vehicle, the better. If we had a rusty Geo Metro with 200,000 miles on it, there was a line of wholesalers who couldn’t wait to bring it home. 4WD trucks where the 4WD wasn’t working? No problem, there’s a home for that. High mileage? Ditto. Broken odometer? Frame damage, flood damage, salvage title? We took them all in trade, and they were sold as quickly as they came in. Sometimes the wholesalers junked them, sometimes they shipped them overseas, but more often than not, they ended up on a local used car dealer’s lot for retail.
Occasionally, if we were appraising a car we didn’t know much about, or had some problem that significantly affected its worth, we’d call a wholesaler to get an exact value on it. A price they were willing to pay, so we didn’t have to risk taking it in and losing money.
And the industry had some interesting terms. Buck (a hundred dollars), Nickel (five hundred dollars), Quarter (twenty five hundred dollars) were the most common. Most people would have trouble understanding it without a translator.
A typical call would go something like this:
Me: “Hey, I got an 85 Muskrat (endearing term for Mustang that’s seen better days) with a buck fifty nine (a hundred and fifty nine thousand miles) and a man in the motor (a banging noise coming from the engine). She owes fifty-six bucks, but I think I can get it done for 4g’s. You a check writer?”
Wholesaler: “That depends, is there twenty five hundred in the glove box?”
Me: “I didn’t look, but let’s assume no.”
Wholesaler: “Two pedals or three?” (Automatic or Manual)
Me: “Two.”
Wholesaler: “AC Blow Cold?”
Me: “You can hang meat in there.”
Wholesaler: (after rummaging through his well worn copy of NADA, Galves and a few auction sheets). “It’s worth 2gs to the moon.” ($2000 is the absolute most it’s worth)
This happened many times in a typical day.
We had this one guy who was different from the other wholesalers. He was his own buyer, and wanted to look at every car personally. He’d come in either very early in the day , or at the end of the day-near closing time. Otherwise he was working back at his store, or at the auction buying and selling. During the day, we could get him on the phone, but not in person.
But the biggest difference is that where most wholesalers were interested in the cars that had an edge to them, (some type of problem…which made them cheaper) he wasn’t. Not even close. He only bought the nicest cars we traded. Luxury brand? Yes. Low mileage, yes. No stories? Perfect. Where the air got thin, and the other wholesalers got nervous, he stepped up. Every time. The nicer the car, the more he wanted it.
And if we wanted to package a group of cars and throw in a couple of lousy ones just to get rid of them? He wasn’t interested. Title problem. Not interested. Lemon Law BuyBack? No thank you. Repo? Not going near it. If we were trading a low mileage, no accidents, perfect car, he was the only call to make.
Turns out, those were the only cars he wanted to buy because those were the only cars he wanted to sell.
And he was absolutely encyclopedic when it came to knowing exact cars and their value. I remember once I called him on a Mercedes Wagon. Low miles, white with tan leather. Power sunroof. It was the perfect car.
After describing the car to him, and telling him how much I needed to make the deal, he said, “The roof was an option in that car for that year, is it factory?” (is the sunroof installed by the factory or aftermarket). I said “I don’t know…it’s just got a sunroof. What’s the difference?”
He said “The difference is that if it’s a factory roof, I’ll take it. If it’s aftermarket, I’m not interested. Not at any price. You can’t cut a hole in the roof on those cars without asking for trouble.”
When I’d see him at the regional auto auctions, he was like a rock star. Dealers from all over coming up to him and asking his opinion about one car or another. And when he had a car on his lot that didn’t sell for some reason, he’d sell it at these auctions, and it seemed like everyone wanted to buy his cars. They knew they’d be able to put them on their front line with no questions asked, and no title issues, or structural or mechanical problems.
Over the years, I sold him hundreds of our cars.
That was over twenty years ago. And while most of those old wholesalers are either out of the business, retired, or still sniffing out clunkers, the guy who used to buy and sell only the best cars, is still doing so today.
In the years that have passed, he’s gone from selling only used cars, to now also being a successful Subaru dealer and Nissan dealer as well. His two very talented brothers have joined him. He now employs over a hundred people, including his own specially trained group of buyers. He goes to auctions all over the county, still looking for only the best cars.
His reputation in the business of being one of the smartest, most honest and hardest working dealers in the industry has only grown.
And for good reason, they’ve become one of the highest volume pre-owned dealers in the country.
Why do I bring this all up now, as a “dealer review”?
Because I recently bought a pre-owned car from his dealership. And my experience was exactly what I would have expected. A great deal, and a flawless car. probably the finest car that I could have found for its year, make, model and mileage. (And a great delivery experience too, with his man Jorge taking care of everything.)
A meticulously inspected car, an excellent deal, and a great experience. Easy to say, but much harder to actually find. This is what every car buyer should be looking for.
Although I love to do online research, (especially when it comes to automobiles), I didn’t do any. All I did was find it on his dealership website.
I didn’t have to worry whether this car had the odometer had been rolled back or disconnected, whether it was a lemon law buy back, had a salvage title, or frame damage. I didn’t have to worry that the car had been in a major accident, or that there was some mechanical issue I’d find out about just after the warranty expired.
Most people will tell you that the best way to insure you find the right car, do a CarFax, an AutoCheck, and hours of online research. That’s all admirable and probably a good idea for most cars. But there is a better, easier way.
Go to the dealer who buys and sells only the best cars in the industry and has been doing so for more than twenty years.
His name is Bob Benoit you’ll find him at Anchor Auto Group in North Smithfield.